He Skipped DUI Class and Killed a Woman. What’s the Lesson?
It’s called gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. This was the charge, and a guilty verdict resulted in a 15-year sentence for a man who killed a woman and injured five others while driving drunk.
The defendant, Johnny Mendoza, was on probation for a previous conviction. That meant he was required to take DUI classes and install an ignition interlock, which prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking.
He did neither.
The Challenge: Non-Compliance with Ignition Interlock Laws
No one can say if Mendoza might not have driven drunk that night in 2016 if he had taken DUI classes, which are designed, according to the California Department of Health Care Services, “to enable participants to consider attitudes and behavior, support positive lifestyle changes, and reduce or eliminate the use of alcohol and/or drugs.”
What we can say is that had Mendoza installed a required ignition interlock, he would not have been able to start his car. He would not have been on the road that night with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of.09, above the legal limit.
So why didn’t he install the ignition interlock?
The sad fact is that, though ignition interlock devices have been proven to reduce alcohol-related road fatalities, not everyone who is required to install one does so. States have tried to address the problem of non-compliance with ignition interlock laws, and California does have a system to deal with the crime.
DUI offenders who are in a county with an the ignition interlock program (the devices won’t be universal until 2019) receive order ID100, which is the official order to install the device. A verification form is received after the installation, and this from must be sent to the probation department. If the offender doesn’t comply, the Department of Motor Vehicles is notified, and the offender could be guilty of probation violation. That entails a hearing and possibly jail.
However, it’s clear that this defendant got away with not installing the device. Somehow he slipped through the cracks. And those cracks proved fatal to one woman.
The lesson, then, is that ignition interlock devices only work when installed, and that too many drunk drivers are in danger of repeating their crimes to take non-compliance with ignition interlock laws lightly.
California – and other states – need to find those cracks and seal them up. Lives depend on it.